Working in a large corporation means communication isn’t always accurate. The communication works much like the old operator game you played in school to show you how easily rumors burst out of control. You start with a rumor, whisper it in your partner’s ear, and by the time that rumor is whispered through the circle, it comes out entirely different than how it started.
It’s similar with internal communications (IC). If you have hundreds, or thousands of employees, chances are your information becomes skewed over time. Your core values are forgotten, the benefits of your products are open for debate, and the reasons people began working for you are dulled into oblivion.
If you Google internal communications and what it is, you will see an overwhelming amount of varying information. Most will give you the extensive algorithms of how to disseminate the information, talk to your employees to see how they want to receive the information, the fact that they share information on social media, how to leverage knowledge, and so on.
What the information forgets to share with you is one simple fact: internal communications is about people. Your audience is your people, from upper management to the sales floor to the warehouse and wherever your organization begins and ends.
The reason your company is where it is today is because the people who work for you and believe in you have strengthened the foundation. If the foundation is crumbling, it’s because your people are crumbling.
What IC is
IC is focused on strengthening relationships and appreciating company culture and values.
IC is understanding how management and your employees think. It’s about connecting the two and helping them understand one another. It’s making sure leadership and employees are on the same level of understanding so they can achieve the ultimate goals. Clear and open IC helps employees feel useful and valued.
What IC is not
IC is not about informing employees of events and products. While it’s true you need your employees to be well informed of your organization and what it produces, this type of communication occupies a small part of IC.
Your management needs to understand the company’s culture in order to lead by example. If you want your employees to live and breathe the values of your company, begin with management. Leaders have to understand these values so they can do their part in living by that culture.
Attitudes of employees and leaders are determined by their productivity. Are they meeting deadlines? Are projects completed with the utmost quality or simply on time? Are people going about tasks with smiles or grumbles? How do they react to criticism?
In order to ascertain how people feel about their work, spend time with them. Walk the floor with employees. Ask questions. Find out their concerns and challenges. How are they meeting these challenges? What have they tried that has worked? What hasn’t worked in the past and what did they learn from that?
The fact that you have two ears versus one mouth means that you do more listening than talking. Once you ask a question, let the employee do most of the talking. When there’s silence on your end, the more the employee will fill the awkward air with speech. You can learn a lot about the operations of your own company by listening.
Understand your company
This takes us back to the core values and company culture. In order for you to find the right people who fit in with your culture and how you should communicate with them, you first need to understand who you are and where you want to go.
The process is similar to when we begin to date someone in the hopes of finding the right person to spend the rest of our life with. You have to grasp who you are first before you involve anyone else in your future. This way, you know the qualities you seek.
Recognize where your company is headed and what its goals include. Goals do change over time, but your purpose should never change. Your purpose is tied into your culture. Once you perceive your culture, communicating with your employees shouldn’t be difficult.
Every organization is unique in how to best share information with its employees. Once you understand your culture, as you continue to put into practice your values, you’ll understand what your employees stand for. You’ll realize the most effective way to communicate with them.
It doesn’t hurt to ask questions. Get to know your employees as much as you can as stated above, and this way you’ll learn in the process what they do, and the tools they use, to get answers they need.
If you ask 50 people their opinion, you’ll receive 50 opinions. It’s still your business and you need to make the final decision. But by asking questions, you might discover a pattern. Maybe the majority of employees use social media to learn about the company they work for. Perhaps more than half enjoy the feel of paper and look forward to the company newsletter. There may be many who quip they don’t have time to read through every email they receive in a day. Consider their thoughts and move forward from there. Decide where your energies would be better spent getting out appropriate information.
You’ll also learn of their concerns and the best way to approach these. Do they feel there is a lack of information out there? Are they concerned the company keeps certain items hidden from them? Have they heard rumors and are desperately seeking facts?
Acknowledge their concerns and decide how to address them. Think about the tools you have available in your organization and an effective way to use them. Anticipate questions and concerns and immediately address these.
Work closely with your leadership team in discovering together ways to work at communicating with all employees. Once you understand the concerns and challenges, put a plan in place to address these. Apply deadlines to achieve solutions. Have a system in place to keep communication lines running smoothly.
Above all, do not leave your employees to feel their way through the darkness. Keep the light on for them with open and clear communication.
Your goal for IC is to keep everyone on the same page.
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